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Asymptotic freedom in field theory; Gross and Wilczek
Murray Gell-Mann Scientist
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Gross and Wilczek had been discussing this from a very different point of view. They were interested in asymptotic freedom in field theory for its own sake. They thought that an asymptotically free theory would be superior and, as we… as we discussed a long time ago in these... in this interview, there is always the possibility in fact that a field theory that’s not asymptotically free is actually self-inconsistent. So they were interested in that, and when it turned out that the renormalization group effect on the propagator in Yang-Mills theory is the opposite to what it is in quantum electrodynamics, that was a very important point. It was found by 't Hooft, but 't Hooft didn't do anything with it.

[Q] You didn’t mention Politzer either.

It was found... no, I'm going to in a moment... it was found by Politzer and also around the same time by Gross and Wilczek. But they used it... Gross and Wilczek used that fact to point out that therefore a Yang-Mills theory, if you didn't have too many fermions in it, would be asymptotically free. Furthermore, not only was the asymptotic freedom something that they had been looking at for a long time because they liked it; it was also the explanation for the Bjorken, Feynman and so on and so on perception that the quarks, anti-quarks and gluons were almost free at very small distances in very high... high momentum transfers.

New York-born physicist Murray Gell-Mann is known for his creation of the eightfold way, an ordering system for subatomic particles, comparable to the periodic table. His discovery of the omega-minus particle filled a gap in the system, brought the theory wide acceptance and led to Gell-Mann's winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969.

Listeners: Geoffrey West

Geoffrey West is a Staff Member, Fellow, and Program Manager for High Energy Physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is also a member of The Santa Fe Institute. He is a native of England and was educated at Cambridge University (B.A. 1961). He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1966 followed by post-doctoral appointments at Cornell and Harvard Universities. He returned to Stanford as a faculty member in 1970. He left to build and lead the Theoretical High Energy Physics Group at Los Alamos. He has numerous scientific publications including the editing of three books. His primary interest has been in fundamental questions in Physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles and their interactions. His long-term fascination in general scaling phenomena grew out of his work on scaling in quantum chromodynamics and the unification of all forces of nature. In 1996 this evolved into the highly productive collaboration with James Brown and Brian Enquist on the origin of allometric scaling laws in biology and the development of realistic quantitative models that analyse the influence of size on the structural and functional design of organisms.

Tags: David Gross, Frank Wilczek, Gerard ′t Hooft, Hugh David Politzer, James Bjorken, Richard Feynman

Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 29 September 2010